Consistency is Important

I came across an article today on Mashable on keeping up a consistent, coherent identity online:

“Consistency is important,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding, “If you’re “Matt” on one site, you better be “Matt” on every other site.”

5 Ways to Clean Up Your Social Media Identity on Mashable

Following the recent discussions that have been sweeping around the web lately regarding curated conversations and how we can design better discussions, it got me thinking. While these discussions thus far have generally been about back-and-forth across the web in a broad sense, this idea of a coherent self-identity brings it to the individual level – keeping your part of a conversation going across the many facets of the web, and keeping it going in a similar fashion across them all.

I have “accounts” on many dozens of sites. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, a Gawker account (Lifehacker, Gizmodo, io9, etc), a Tumblr account (obviously, else you wouldn’t be reading this), and so on. Each site represents a separate interest of mine, or a separate intent. I participate on each, in varying degrees of frequency and depth. Twitter is by its nature a much more frequented medium than, say, Lifehacker discussion threads. But across all of them, I’m still me.

Aside: There was of course a time before I was comfortable using my real name on the web, for all the reasons people have become so fond of citing. Even then, I generally used a fairly consistent identity so that you had a reasonable degree of certainty that this user here was the same as that user there. Real name or made-up screenname, the idea is the same.

Up to now the question has been mostly one of tracking discussions between users – are on-site comment forms inherently a bad idea vs. requiring site-to-site responses, etc. – but what about tracking responses by user alone? We’re starting to see more and more integration of profiles between sites. Logging into sites with my Facebook or Twitter account is becoming pretty commonplace. But generally responses are still tied to the site of origin. I don’t usually reply to a Lifehacker thread on Twitter, or respond to a Facebook comment on Tumblr. Certainly there’s nothing stopping me, but it’s disconnected, disjointed.

I don’t know if there’s some established etiquette for such communication already that I’m just ignorant of (it’s certainly possible) but it’s awkward. How do we go about handling this? How do we tie the conversation together, for the community but also for the individual? I can certainly use Disqus’s comment moderation system to track my comments left via that system, but that only tracks my comments left via that system. We need something more.

(Apologies if I’m just rephrasing my earlier post on the subject but I feel this is something we as a web community need to figure out.